Two homers provide only offense in Nats' win
Morse, Guzman go deep to back Hernandez vs. Royals
WASHINGTON -- Coming off one of his worst starts of the season, a loss to the Tigers on June 16, right-hander Livan Hernandez had something to prove entering Monday's matchup against Kansas City.
He also wanted to be the pitcher to end the Nationals' six-game losing streak.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
Both were accomplished in the Nationals' 2-1 win against the Royals at Nationals Park.
Hernandez (6-4) earned the win after allowing one run on eight hits in seven innings. He also added five strikeouts. Closer Matt Capps entered in the ninth inning and picked up his 21st save of the season.
Cristian Guzman's solo home run to left-center field broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning, proving to be the difference.
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said it felt good to snap the streak and get back to winning ball games.
"It's been a little grind here lately," Riggleman said. "We're having trouble breaking it open a little bit, but it's going to turn for us if we keep staying together and working hard. It's going to come together."
Hernandez utilized all his pitches well to keep the Royals' hitters quiet. His only blemish came in the third inning when Jason Kendall's RBI groundout scored Yuniesky Betancourt from third base.
Hernandez said he was happy with his outing and glad he could help get his team out of their recent rut.
"I left the ball up a little bit, but the slider was working very well," Hernandez said. "The cutter was working perfectly. I had a bad game in Detroit, so today I knew I had to come through and stop the losing streak."
Though the Nationals' offense wasn't significantly improved -- they only managed four hits -- it was enough to propel the team to a victory.
In the second inning, with the score even at 0, Michael Morse crushed a solo home run off Chen to deep left-center field, giving the Nationals a one-run advantage.
"That was a good one," Morse said. "It felt really good coming off the bat and it was loud."
Though he doesn't appear in the starting lineup regularly -- typically rotating in right field with Roger Bernadina or pinch-hitting -- Morse has made the most of his opportunities.
In the nine games he has been in the starting lineup, he is batting .428 with three home runs and four RBIs.
"It's been limited, but he's always taken advantage of it," Riggleman said. "He's a great guy to have there. When he's not in the lineup, he comes off and usually gives us a quality at-bat off the bench. He's making a statement for himself."
Riggleman added that he might use Morse against left-handed pitching, and Bernadina against right-handers. Regardless, Morse said he would be ready when called on.
"I'll do whatever it takes to get the lineup," Morse said. "Whatever my job is for the team, I'm going to try to do it the best I can. When I do get my starts here and there, I recognize pitches and I feel like I'm an everyday player."
Another major contribution came from catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who threw out two base runners and picked off another in key situations.
With two runners on, and no outs in the seventh inning, Rodriguez noticed Alberto Collaspo taking a big lead at second. The moment the pitch from Hernandez reached Rodriguez's glove, he fired to Ian Desmond who tagged Collaspo out.
"I saw a big lead and I threw it," Rodriguez said. "Ian did a good job. We were able to tag the base, that was the key."
Rodriguez also helped Capps get through a tough ninth inning. With Mike Aviles on third base and two outs, Rodriguez told Capps to throw inside on Mitch Maier.
"Our game-plan was to start the guy with two pitches outside," Rodriguez said. "I went to talk to [Capps] and told him, 'We have to come in.' He just threw it perfect."
Greg Rosenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.